Katherine Hankey's "I Love to Tell the Story"
“I Love to Tell the Story” is a poem written by Katherine Hankey, an English evangelist and was sung using a tune composed by William G. Fischer. The poem was initially written in two parts when Hankey became ill when she was on a mission in Africa. During the period of her treatment and recovery, she finished the first part on January 29, 1866, under the title “The Story Wanted.” This poem composed of fifty stanzas. The second part which she completed on November 18, 1866, was titled “The Story Told.”
The popular hymn that starts with “Tell me the old, old story” compiled by Dr. W. H. Doane in 1867, was composed of verses from the first part. The known hymn today “I Love to Tell the Story” was taken from the second part. There are several versions printed on different publications, but the text with the tune called Hankey and a refrain written by William G. Fisher were published in 1869 in the book Joyful Songs. The stanzas of the song were based on the scripture, specifically Psalms 66:16 and John 15:27. Hankey expressed her zeal in the song. She believed that the story of Jesus and his unconditional love should be told to everyone, especially to the unsaved.
Arabella Katherine Hankey, the daughter of a successful banker and devout Anglicans, was born on January 12, 1834, in London. John Wesley’s Methodist revival greatly influenced her. She was a teacher in Sunday schools in London and later on, went to South Africa together with her brother for missionary work as a nurse. It was in 1866 when she was bedridden that she wrote the famous poem.
The composer of the tune, William Gustavus Fischer was born on October 14, 1835, in Baltimore, Maryland. He began singing in German when he was in eight years old. He was born to be a musician, learned to read music in church and pursued piano and organ as his profession. He was a bookbinder in Philadelphia during the day and studied music at night. He trained and led many musicians in his town. Eventually, he became a Music Professor at Girard College from 1858 to 1868. During the time, he was able to build up one of the most magnificent piano houses in the United States. He retired in 1898 and died on August 13, 1912, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.